image. (Photo by TK)

TK in Verona, Italy

Arena di Verona [STSTST]
The best preserved Roman amphitheater in the world and the best known in Italy after Rome's Colosseum, the elliptical Arena was built in a slightly pinkish marble around the year a.d. 100 and stands in the very middle of town with the Piazza Brà on its southern flank. Built to accommodate more than 20,000 people (outdone by Rome's contender that could seat more than twice that), it is in remarkable shape today (despite a 12th-century earthquake that left only four arches of the outer ring standing), beloved testimony to the pride and wealth of Verona and its populace.
Its acoustics (astoundingly good for an open-air venue) have survived the millennia and make it one of the wonders of the ancient world and one of the most fascinating venues for live performances today, conducted without microphones. If you're in town during the summer opera performances in July and August, do everything possible to procure a ticket (see "Will the Fat Lady Sing?," above) for any of the outdoor evening performances. Even opera-challenged audience members will take home the memory of a lifetime.
The cluster of outdoor cafes and trattorias/pizzerias on the western side of the Piazza Brà line a wide marble esplanade called Il Liston; they stay open long after the opera performances end. Enjoy some serious after-opera people-watching here.
Piazza Brà tel. 045-800-3204 (museum and site) (performance tickets)
Tues–Sun 8:30 am–7:30pm, Mon 1:45–7:30pm. (Last admission 45 minutes before close.). During the July–Aug summer opera season 9am–3:30pm.

Verona's renowned opera season [STSTST] begins in late June and extends through August in Verona's Arena, the ancient amphitheater. It began in 1913 with a staging of Ai[um]da to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Verdi's birth, and Ai[um]da in all of its extravagant glory has been performed yearly ever since; when I last attended, in 2000, modern dance and minimalist scenery were incorporated to great effect. Expect to see other Verdi works such as Un Ballo in Maschera, Nabucco, La Traviata, and Rigoletto.
     Those seated on the least-expensive, unreserved stone steps costing 19.50€ ($22) Friday and Saturday, 21.50€ ($25) otherwise, enjoy fresh air, excellent acoustics, and a view over the Arena's top to the city and surrounding hills beyond. The rub is that Jose Carreras will only appear to be one inch high. Numbered seats below cost from 70€ ($81) to 154€ ($177); all tickets are subject to an advance booking fee of 2.50€–20€ ($2.90–$23)—worth it, unless you're willing to tough it out by lining up at 4 or 5pm for the 6pm opening of the gates for unreserved seating (and the show doesn't even start until 9pm).
     The box office is located on Via Dietro Anfiteatro 6b; credit card purchase accepted by phone or online (tel. 045-800-5151; fax 045-801-3287; You pick up tickets the night of the performance. If you hope to find tickets upon arrival, remember that Ai[um]da is everyone's most requested performance; weekend performances are usually sold out. As a last-minute resort, be nice to your hotel manager or concierge—everyone has a connection, or a relative with a connection. And even on the most coveted nights (weekend performances by top names), scalpers abound.

Opera under the stars

The Arena di Verona, an ancient Roman amphitheater famous for its opera productions

The Arena of Verona
The Arena of Verona. (Photo by chensiyuan)

The Arena di Verona on the south edge of Verona is the best preserved Roman amphitheater in the world and the best known in Italy after Rome's Colosseum.

It was built around the year A.D. 100 to accommodate more than 20,000 people (the one in Rome can do 40,000, easily). It is in remarkable shape today, despite a 12th-century earthquake that left only four arches of the outer ring standing.

This ancient Roman amphitheater actually boasts some surprisingly good acoustics for what is essentially a giant stone oval open to the sky designed for gladiatorial contests. A mighty sight in its own right, what makes the Arena of Verona truly special is the fact that it is still in use, nearly 2,000 years after it was first built.

Getting ready for Giulietta e Romeo at the Arena in Verona
Getting ready for a modern rock opera production of Giulietta e Romeo at the Arena in Verona.
The Arena still hosts spectacular operas and concerts under the stars in warm weather.

A performance of Aïda here is a must—though anything, really, is good (last time I was there, I saw an Italian rock opera abou—what else?—Romeo and Juliet).

The season runs from late June through August, and tends towards Italian greatest hits and other heavy-hitters—Tosca, Nabucco, Rigoletto, Carmen, and, of course, Roméo et Juliette (which, in case ninth grade English was too many years ago for you to recall, takes place "in fair Verona where we lay our scene...").

Tickets range from €19 to €198.

The Arena di Verona at night.
The Arena di Verona at night. (Photo courtesy of Arnea di Verona)

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